245. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Panayotis Pipinelis, Foreign Minister of Greece
  • Christian X. Palamas, Ambassador of Greece
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger
  • Mr. Harold H. Saunders

The conversation opened with a brief exchange of remarks on the Presientʼs briefing of the morningʼs NATO meeting.2 That led to the Foreign Ministerʼs saying that Greece is fully prepared to accept its obligation in NATO regardless of what help it does or does not get from the others. Dr. Kissinger commended that position.

The Foreign Minister felt that Greece is an important island of stability in the midst of serious change on either side. He said he is deeply concerned about the leftist movements in both Turkey and Italy. He felt that Italy is rapidly approaching the condition of Greece two or three years ago.

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Dr. Kissinger asked what the situation in Greece is today. The Foreign Minister spoke of the energy and dedication of the present Government. He noted that, despite criticism from the outside, and despite perhaps a lack of sophistication on the part of the present government, it is made up of men who deeply believe in their mission of reform, eliminating corruption and simplifying administration. They are moving gradually back toward elections but they will take time.

Dr. Kissinger asked under what circumstances the King might return. The Foreign Minister said that is up to the Government. He suggested, however, that the Kingʼs return would probably coincide with the ultimate holding of elections.

The Foreign Minister then said that the King had regretted that he had not had a chance to meet with the President. Dr. Kissinger explained the “technical difficulty” since the President had had to limit himself to seeing heads of Government. He assured the Foreign Minister, however, that the President had “the highest personal regard” for the King. He said he himself had called the King to convey this regard before the King had departed and he had told the King that if he were to come to the United States on a private visit a meeting on a private basis could be arranged with the President. However, we just could not be in a position of being put in the middle of current political maneuvering in Greece. If the Government of Greece had asked us to receive the King, that would have been an entirely different proposition.

The Foreign Minister picked up this point and said that he felt it is not productive for the U.S. Government to continue to press the present Government for an early return to full constitutional Government. He noted that the Vice President and officials in the State Department had continued to press this point3 and that the question of continued U.S. military assistance to Greece had become involved in it. He suggested that the U.S. Government should help its NATO partner with military assistance regardless of its political system. Dr. Kissinger said that he could report categorically that the policy of the President is for the United States not to involve itself in the political affairs of other countries. There was one qualification to that—when the political affairs of Greece became an issue which others in NATO used to weaken the alliance, then we had to take account of that. For the most part, the policy of the President is for the U.S. to concern itself only with the foreign policy of another country.

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Dr. Kissinger in an exchange of pleasantries said that when he had visited Greece, he had concluded that perhaps the U.S. and Greece should exchange political leaders. Our leaders are pragmatists and Greece has many practical problems to be solved. The leaders of Greece are men who like to operate in terms of wide vision and the United States could use some of that.

The conversation ended with Dr. Kissingerʼs reassurance of the Presidentʼs policy.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 593, Country Files—Middle East, Greece, Vol. I Jan 69–Oct 70. Secret. The meeting took place in Kissingerʼs office at the White House. Drafted by Saunders on April 22. Pipinelis was attending the NATO Ministerial meeting April 10–11.
  2. Apparent reference to President Nixonʼs address to the NATO meeting April 10. For text, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, pp. 272–276. The Presidentʼs Daily Diary indicates he attended the NATO meeting from 2:06 to 2:50 p.m. and delivered remarks. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files)
  3. Memoranda of Pipinelisʼs conversations with Richardson, April 9, and with Agnew, April 11, are in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 7 GREECE and POL GREECE-US, respectively. The Department sent the Embassy in Athens an account of Pipinelisʼs visit to Washington in telegram 56593 to Athens, April 12. (Ibid.)